« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
choice of work, for the management of their own affairs. Gradually the problem became complicated by the interpretation of the word “equal." Since men and women are not identical (not "fungible" as the Supreme Court has said), the question arose : "What is equal ?" How can men and women, in some respects similar, in some respects dissimilar, be treated equally? To treat them identically is not necessarily to treat them equally.
The problem could only be solved by treating men and women alike in whatever respects they were alike and by allowing for differences where they differed. The nineteenth amendment, providing for national suffrage, established one great fact. Women had the intelligence and the competence to be full citizens. Their concern was as great and their consent as important in a democracy as that of the men. But suffrage did not mean that laws should not allow for differences between men and women. Laws favoring women as members of a family have always been beld justified by society as a whole. The husband is, for example, primarily responsible for family support. Such laws are logical as long as the role of wife and mother in our society interrupts or impedes the woman's opportunity to develop or maintain her own earning power. In physical structure, in biological and social functions, women ditier from men. Society has always considered these differences in the making of laws and its application, and must continue to do so.
SPECIAL LABOR LAWS FOR WOMEN
When women began to assume responsibilities in the business and industrial world they did not have the same bargaining power as men. As a result, they have often worked for low wages, which by undercutting men's wages tended to lower the wage scale for everyone. Because of their lack of power to bargain, they were forced to work under conditions which tended to undermine their health and to lower their contribution to society in general. To remedy the situation, it seemed wise to pass special labor laws establishing maximum hours of work, minimum wages, and healthful conditions of work for women. Most States have such laws. Because women in our society have a role of great importance as mothers and homemakers these protective laws for women are in the general welfare. They are important to all of us.
NEW SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE
What are some of the factors which have led the League of Women Voters and other organizations to believe that a rethinking of the status of women would be valuable at this time? The studies by scientists of the growth and development of the human being have progressed rapidly in the last few decades. From such study have come more dependable measurements of the differences between men and women. For example, the scientists now confirm the common-sense knowledge that the human male reaches maturity several years later than the human female. Such scientific findings provide a sis for reevaluating our laws about age of marriage. There are also new findings by psychologists and sociologists which should be considered. The importance of the family and the role of the mother-homemaker are significant factors about which one social scientists have impressive data and which should be taken into account as we consider legislation.
UNITED NATIONS CHARTER
The Charter of the United Nations, which our Nation signed, declares it to be among its purposes to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all “without distinctions as to sex.” It is, therefore, our duty to bring our laws and their administration into harmony with these principles. It is appropriate at this time to establish a national policy in keeping with the great aims of the United Nations Charter and to review our laws and practice, both in our Federal Government and in the States.
There are not thought to be important discriminations against women in Federal laws, although there are some minor ones. For example, women cannot serve on Federal juries in States where State law does not permit women to serve as jurors. While the letter of the Federal law does not seem to discriminate, certain practices which produce actual discriminations need to be reviewed.
Because the problem of discrimination against women has long been a dhorny one, because of widespread (urrent interest in the role of women in our society, and because of our commitment to the United Nations, it is a fitting time to review the question of the status of women in the United States.
BILL ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
The proposed bill on the status of women which the League of Women voters is supporting with some 40 other women's organizations would do four things.
(1) Declare a policy.-It would declare it to be a policy of the United States that "in law and its administration no distinctions on the basic of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, biological, or social function.”
(2) Require immediate conformity with the policy. So far as permitted by existing legislation, the bill would require all Federal agencies to review their current practices and conform them to the new policy.
(3) Establish a commission on the status of women. It would provide a Presidentially appointed commission of nine members to (a) study and review the economic, civil, political, and social status of women and the extent of discriminations based on sex, (b) recommond legislation necessary to bring the laws and Government practices of the United States into conformity with the declared policy. The findings of such a commission could become a great landmark in the history of the United States. Its work would have great effect upon the work of the United Nations Commission on Women and hence upon the progress of women throughout the world.
The commission would dig into the facts. It would define distinctions based on differences in sex before defining discrimination based on sex. It would trace the development of sex discrimination. (The wording of the bill allows for studying discriminations against men, too.) It would describe accurately the kinds and amounts of discrimination existing in the United States today. The new bill proposed to point up the facts in the same way as the President's Committee on Economic Security did before the Social Security Act was written or as the White House Conference on Child Welfare did before child welfare legislation was framed.
Such a commission would need funds adequate to provide a staff. It would be created immediately upon passage of the bill and would report to the President by March 1, 1948. The President would, within 30 days after its receipt, transmit the commission's report, together with his recommendations to the Congress.
(4) Urge the states to declare a policy.-A good Federal example would be set by the bill. Therefore, it is fitting that it should urge the States to declare a similar policy, to review their laws and practices and bring them into conformity with the policy. Laws concerning marriage and family and pertaining to property (in which most discriminations reside) are largely State laws. The same organizations which are working for the passage of the Federal bill on the status of women will work for improved State laws.
The bill on the status of women was introduced in both Houses of Congress on February 17, 1946. Mr. Wadsworth, of New York, took the initiative in the House, his bill is H. R. 2007. Other sponsors included Representative Kefauver of Tennessee, Lewis of Ohio, Rogers of Massachusetts, Douglas of California, and Norton of New Jersey. Senator Taft introduced the bill in the Senate where it is Senate Joint Resolution 67.
WHY NOT AN EQUAL-RIGHTS AMENDMENT ?
For many years some women have urged the passage of a constitutional amendmen saying that men and women in the United States should have equal rights. The problem is not as simple as that. Saying that men and women shall be equal will not make them equal. The words “equal rights” are impressive, but no one can possibly know what they would mean in a constitutional amendment. Only a long series of legal cases could begin to arrive at some more precise definitions of the term. We have on our law books now hundreds of laws affecting women. They are specific laws about specific problems. As has been said by Paul Freund, professor of law at Harvard University. "The basic iallacy in the proposed amendment is that it attempts to deal with complicated and highly concrete problems arising out of a diversity of human relationships in terms of a single and simple abstraction.”
1 The numbers of these other bills (identical in content) are H. R. 1996, H. R. 2323, H, R. 2003, H. R. 1972, H. R. 2035.
The organizations supporting the bill on the status of women believe that the whole problem of discrimination needs to be reviewed and positive and specific legislative action needs to be taken point by point. Those supporting the equalrights amendment want a constitutional declaration of a sweeping principle. Hundreds of current laws would be thrown into question. It would open up a period of extreme confusion in constitutional law. Even if the amendment should be passed and ratified, specific legislation would be needed to put it into effect. In the process there would be great danger that the Federal Government would step into additional fields which have always been the responsibility of the States.
WHY A BILL ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN ?
In contrast to the amendment procedure, the new bill on the status of women offers clear, positive, and quick action. It immediately declares a national policy against discriminations. The commission it creates will study the question in the light of all available information. Its findings will constitute the first official and complete body of facts ever assembled on the problem. Its recommendations based upon these facts will carry great weight with the President, Congress, and the respective States. In short, it provides a reasonable method for accomplishing an end which all enlightened citizens desire. Your Senators and your Repre sentatives would like to know what you think about H. R. 2007, a bill on the status of women. Watch trends for legislative developments. League support for this measure is authorized by the platform item.
"Specific legislation designed to insure for women equal guardianship, jury service independent citizenship. Opposition to the equal rights amendment."
This or some similar wording has been a part of the league's program since 1920.
Tell your friends about H. R. 2007
Pass copies of this brief on to other people Mr. REED. I take it, Mrs. Stone, from the way you talk, that you are practical enough to realize what I think most of us do, that a commission such as may be appointed, if the Wadsworth bill should become a law, might bring in a report in 2 years that would not be pleasing, we will say, to the stand your organization takes, or it might not be pleasing to the stand taken by the sponsors of the Robsion bill. In either case, I doubt-I presume you do—that either organization would be ready to accept the final word of the commission as governing what ought to be done any more than they probably would the final word of this committee after these hearings, and I was wondering whether such a report, if it comes within a period of 2 years, would there be any particular value in that report other than the statistics that they might bring out in ultimately determining how this question ought to be determined in its finality?
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE, I should think there would be the value of the truth as there always is. You see, one of the troubles with the process that we are going through these days and have gone through several other times, is that you have a limited number of people who are carrying the banners for their respective crusades, who come here with a point of view that has not been subjected to the testing of all of the known facts.
Now I know, being familiar with university life, that the professors of anthropology, the doctors in the medical college, the sociologists, the social welfare workers' experience, that all of those things should be brought to bear on the problem and you cannot get all the facts in a short session such as we have been having in these 2 days.
This is an exceedingly intricate problem.
Mr. REED. What I had in mind, Mrs. Stone, is this: We have had a commission, we have had several commissions that have been called during my experience in Congress. We have one now that has been at work for some time making an investigation, research on the desirability of universal military training.
That commission made a report; it makes no difference what the report is, but from my observation I doubt whether the report has changed the opinion of any Member of Congress as to what it was before the report was rendered.
I question, or I am wondering whether this would result the same way. You know there is an old saying, "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
I am just wondering whether such a commission-I say this in all frankness-I just wonder whether such a commission would bring the results that we would all hope that it would.
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. I would like to answer that by pointing out that it is a pattern we have used frequently with success. In the early thirties a commission was appointed to study the need for a socialsecurity system; and it was largely the report of that commission that served as a basis for our social-security law.
I have faith in the investigation of facts and the light that such investigation throws upon a problem.
Mr. CHADWICK. Mrs. Stone, I would like to ask you a question. In the first place, as I followed your testimony, I found no express statement in opposition to the joint resolution relating to the constitutional amendment. If you made such a statement, I did not hear it. It may be implicit in what you say. But if it is absent, I want to congratulate you on its absence for this reason: It has seemed to me that we misapprehend this situation. We have two problems and not one. The first problem is: Should this committee, and in turn the Judiciary Committee, submit to the House for the consideration of the Members, a constitutional amendment. However, we all know the constitutional amendments take a long time to adopt and sometimes fail.
In the meantime, there is a problem which is current and pressing to which this bill of Mr. Wadsworth seems to direct itself and which you support.
Now, going back to the first question on which you have not mentioned, and if you do not want to answer, that should be your privilege, because your testimony may well be restricted in line of your presentation. What would you say to the first aspect of the problem, the question of whether or not there should be submitted by subcommittee action, committee action and to the House, the consideration of the constitutional amendment in light of this fact: The women of America, like the men of America, should have a right to depend upon the promises made to them by their own parties and if by chance the promise is made by both parties, that would seem to put a special emphasis on it.
Now, my personal view is that these two things should be considered separately; that they are subject to different considerations, should be based upon different considerations, and are not necessarily antagonistic, although I realize that the thinking behind the one bill is different from the thinking behind the other. But as a woman and a very intelligent woman, what would you say as to the duty of a congressional committee with respect to an amendment which seems to have been promised the people for consideration—no guaranty by either party that it would be adopted; which has been promised to the people for their consideration in the platforms of both parties. Does that not, in your womanly political sense, impose a responsibility upon the representatives of the parties in the Congress?
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. I should like to answer in terms of our League of Women Voters' philosophy about representation. We believe that Representatives when they come to Congress should be free to deliberate fully and to make decisions in the light of their very best judgment at the time.
Mr. CHADWICK. Disregarding, if necessary, the promises of their parties to the people generally.
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. You have an intraparty problem that I would rather not comment on.
Mr. CHADWICK. Fortunately, we have not; because both parties seem to have committed themselves on it. It becomes as nonpartisan as your League of Women Voters likes to think everything should be. It presents what I call a problem of government, maybe of politics. What degree of respect should we pay to promises made by both political parties to the people of the country without regard to the question of whether I think it was a wise promise. What is my duty in that promise?
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. It seems to me that experience has shown that there is not a very wide degree of adherence to the party platforms.
Mr. CHADWICK. That gets right to the heart of my question. Assuming that you can adequately represent a point of view of a very intelligent group of women voters, do you think that political promises should be made in party platforms and then disregarded ?
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. I think the promise should not have been made.
Mr. CHADWICK. That begs the question, the question whether the promise having been made it should have an influence, if not an influential effect, upon the action of the Representatives, in this case, of both parties?
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. The platform endorses an amendment, but not necessarily this one.
Mr. REED. It merely endorses the submission of an amendment. Mr. CHADWICK. It can be easily said, as each amendment comes up: This is not the one we promised.
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. I repeat my initial answer, which I believe in with all my heart and soul, and that is that our Representatives should be free to deliberate and use their best judgment at the time an issue is up. Now, I think they should have due regard for party promises and platforms. But I do believe that deliberations at the time an issue is up is the most important consideration. Their constituents will hold them responsible if they like the next time they are up for election.
Mr. REED. Don't you think that the party platforms, such as Mr. Chadwick has spoken about, merely announced as the policy of the political party holding the national convention that an amendment ought to be submitted to the States and allow the States to determine wheher or not they want such a thing? That was the practical wording of the party plans, as I recall it.
Mrs. KATHRYN STONE. Yes.